Beautiful Melodies: ‘Passacaglia’ by Handel and Halvorsen

The word passacaglia derives from the Spanish word pasar (to walk) and calle (street). But it also refers to a musical form that originated in 17th-century Spain as a street dance tune, where the melody – usually in a minor key – consists of a bass line over which it is repeatedly played. The form became very popular throughout Europe in the Baroque period where it was often used as a concluding movement in a suite or sonata. The famed Baroque composer, George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) for example, wrote numerous harpsichord suites ending with a passacaglia. One of them was adapted by the renowned Norwegian conductor, composer and violinist, Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) to become one of his best-known works. The composition, formally titled as The Passacaglia in G Minor, HMW 432, is popularly known as the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia. It’s sweet, serene melody makes it one of the most “popular classics” today.

Here are two piano renditions of the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia, one of which is a slowed version that some listeners feel evokes the seasons of time going by.

Version 1 by Minh Ngoc Ng (3/4 time)

A slowed-down version by Andrea Vanzo

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